Library image. Cambridge streets were reportedly busier this bank holiday weekend than on previous weekends during lockdownLouis Ashworth

The Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) issued a statement this morning in support of the explanation given by Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s Senior Adviser, for his decision to drive to Durham and Barnard Castle despite lockdown regulations.

CUCA described the recent accusations against the Senior Adviser as “politically motivated, contrived, and deceitful faux outrage.”

Meanwhile, members of both the Cambridge University Labour Club (CULC) and the Cambridge University Liberal Association (CULA) have condemned Cummings explanation and his refusal to resign.

In a statement delivered in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street yesterday (25/05), Cummings explained that he had driven to a cottage on land owned by his parents in County Durham once he and his wife developed coronavirus symptoms. He claims that he did this for the wellbeing of his four-year-old son, as his sister and nieces had offered to look after his child should Cummings and his wife become too ill. In regards to his 30-mile trip to Barnard Castle, Cummings stated that this was to test his eyesight and his readiness to drive back to London.

Cummings claimed, “I don’t regret what I did.” Amid accusations of breaching lockdown regulations, he responded: “I don’t think I am so different and that there is one rule for me and one rule for other people”.

Concerns have been raised that Cummings’ journey and the government’s subsequent response may ’confuse’ and ’undermine’ current public health measures.

CUCA defended Cummings’ explanation, stating that “for any legislation, including something as expansive and hastily drafted as the Coronavirus Act, there needs to be an application of common sense.”

Cummings himself stated that “the legal rules inevitably do not cover all circumstances, including those that I found myself in.”

However, Freddie Poser and Peter McLaughlin, respectively CULA Chair and Communications Officer, disagree with this idea. In a statement to Varsity, they said that “if there was such a lack of clarity in the rules, it was [Cummings’] job to report and have the government decide on it, not exploit it for his own self-interest.”

Meanwhile, Harrison Jennings and Fiona Mitchell, Chairs of CULC, told Varsity that “it is quite clear that the government is lying at each step.” CULC offered the view that Cummings’ refusal to apologise or resign was a sign that “Cummings has always seen himself as cut above everybody else.”

Earlier this week, Anthony Browne, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, also expressed his support for Cummings, stating that “there is no reason for him to resign” despite audio from an interview found by Varsity in which Browne had previously criticised members of the public and police for not closely adhering to social distancing rules.

Meanwhile, Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridgeshire told Varsity he thought Cummings “should have resigned” on Saturday (23/05) and was “unfit to be holding a senior government position.”

In their statement, CUCA disagreed with the way that the Cummings row had been portrayed in the mainstream media, stating that a “trivial family matter” has been “exaggerated into Watergate”.

They commended the government for now bowing “to the pressure of columnists and commentators, many of whom have a staunch ideological antipathy towards Borish Johnson and Brexit.”

CUCA also called on the government to “take a more confrontational approach against the media”.

Meanwhile, CULA did not think the media’s coverage itself was an issue, but rather the “way the Government and Conservative party have tried to discredit journalists who are holding them to account.” They called on the public “to be vigilant and support publications that uphold the integrity of our democracy.”

CULC found the media’s response to be satisfactory but emphasised that it needs to be “placed in the context of the UK attaining the highest per capita death toll in the world”. They called the government’s response to the Cummings row as “far short of inadequate” claiming that “senior members of its staff have been further endangering public health through sheer arrogance”.

Jennings and Mitchell also told Varsity that they believed that the government’s efforts to protect Cummings was evidence that they “have been trying to erode the ‘stay at home’ message for a while as they prioritise profit over public health”.

Poser and McLaughlin also claimed that the government’s response “undermines the public health messaging that has been so key to our response to this pandemic”.


Mountain View

South Cambs MP doubles down on Cummings, but previously said those in public positions must ‘behave responsibly’

This concern is echoed in reports of crowds flocking to Cambridge city centre on this bank holiday Monday (25/05). While images indicate that members of the public on Jesus Green were socially distancing, there are concerns that the size of the city centre and the narrow streets have made it difficult to maintain a safe distance from other people.

Similar issues were seen at Grantchester where crowds filled the banks of the River Cam. A passerby told Cambridge News that the large groups did not appear to be from the same household.

Current restrictions only allow for seeing one person from another household outdoors.

However, earlier today, Michael Gove, announced that people in England may be allowed to socialise outdoors in bigger groups in the coming weeks. However, he suggested pubs, restaurants and cafes would not be able to return to normal for some time.